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Nature or Nurture? Learning and Female Labour Force Dynamics

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  • Fogli, Alessandra
  • Veldkamp, Laura

Abstract

Much of the increase in female labour force participation in the post-war period has come from the entry of married women with young children. Accompanying this change has been a rise in cultural acceptance of maternal employment. We argue that the concurrent S shaped rise in maternal participation and its cultural acceptance comes from generations of women engaged in Bayesian learning about the effects of maternal employment on children. Each generation updates their parents' beliefs by observing the children of employed women. When few women participate in the labour force, most observations are uninformative and participation rises slowly. As information accumulates and the effects of labour force participation become less uncertain, more women participate, learning accelerates and labour force participation rises faster. As beliefs converge to the truth, participation flattens out. Survey data, wage data and participation data support our mechanism and distinguish it from alternative explanations.

Suggested Citation

  • Fogli, Alessandra & Veldkamp, Laura, 2007. "Nature or Nurture? Learning and Female Labour Force Dynamics," CEPR Discussion Papers 6324, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:6324
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    Cited by:

    1. Matthias Doepke & Moshe Hazan & Yishay D. Maoz, 2015. "The Baby Boom and World War II: A Macroeconomic Analysis," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 82(3), pages 1031-1073.
    2. Afful, Efua Amoonua, 2013. "Heterogeneity in the Importance of English-Speaking Ability in Determination of Employment Status by Demographic Subgroups in the United States," MPRA Paper 58767, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Stefania Albanesi & Claudia Olivetti, 2016. "Gender Roles and Medical Progress," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 124(3), pages 650-695.
    4. Lídia Farré & Francis Vella, 2013. "The Intergenerational Transmission of Gender Role Attitudes and its Implications for Female Labour Force Participation," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 80(318), pages 219-247, April.
    5. Francesco Giavazzi & Fabio Schiantarelli & Michel Serafinelli, 2013. "Attitudes, Policies, And Work," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11(6), pages 1256-1289, December.
    6. Stefania Albanesi, 2017. "Changing Business Cycle Dynamics in the US: The Role of Women's Employment," 2017 Meeting Papers 580, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    7. Stefania Albanesi & Claudia Olivetti, 2006. "Gender roles and technological progress," 2006 Meeting Papers 411, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    8. Hazan, Moshe & Maoz, Yishay D., 2010. "Women's lifetime labor supply and labor market experience," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 34(10), pages 2126-2140, October.
    9. Raquel Fernandez, 2007. "Culture as Learning: The Evolution of Female Labor Force Participation over a Century," NBER Working Papers 13373, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Hanno Lustig, "undated". "The Wealth-Consumption Ratio: A Litmus Test for Consumption-based Asset Pricing Models," UCLA Economics Online Papers 420, UCLA Department of Economics.
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    12. Suqin Ge & Fang Yang, 2013. "Accounting For The Gender Gap In College Attainment," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 51(1), pages 478-499, January.
    13. Raquel Fernandez, 2009. "Culture as Learning: The Evolution of Female Labor Force Participation over a Century," 2009 Meeting Papers 78, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    14. Begoña Álvarez & Daniel Miles, 2009. "Building gender roles: Do children learn from their parents?," Working Papers 0906, Universidade de Vigo, Departamento de Economía Aplicada.
    15. Fernández, Raquel, 2007. "Culture as Learning: The Evolution of Female Labour Force Participation Over a Century," CEPR Discussion Papers 6451, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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    19. Tiago Cavalcanti & José Tavares, 2016. "The Output Cost of Gender Discrimination: A Model‐based Macroeconomics Estimate," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 126(590), pages 109-134, February.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    female labour force participation; information diffusion; labor supply; preference transmission; S-shaped learning;

    JEL classification:

    • E2 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment
    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • N32 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics

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